This is part of an ongoing series on wine-in-context, stemming from the belief that not only does every bottle have a story to tell, but every winery and wine merchant.
‘Il Barolo Letterario’
Come Lo Sento Io
The Winery: Massimo Martinelli
Earlier this month, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Massimo Martinelli along with his muse and life partner, Angioletta De Giorgis, at their estate—a happy mix between home, winery, vineyard, art studio, and a small boutique hotel they run called Antica Meridiana Relais Art. A dynamic duo if ever there was one! Massimo, the longtime winemaker at Renato Ratti and even president of the Barolo Consorzio for a period, retired some years ago, but has continued to make small quantities of Dolcetto on the side. In 2012, with the help of some winery friends, he started making Barolo and a Langhe Nebbiolo again under his own label. Besides being a lauded winemaker, Massimo is also a prolific artist and writer. Angioletta, a retired physics teacher with a gift for design, decorated their small hotel and handles most of the special activities for hotel guests.
The Wine: Bricco Mollea ‘Il Barolo Letterario’ Come Lo Sento Io 2012
The name, Il Barolo Letterario (The literate Barolo), references both Massimo’s words on the label as well as his memoir on making wine in the Langhe, entitled Barolo Come Lo Sento Io (Barolo: How I Feel About it), which includes an English translation, for those interested in diving deep into the world of Barolo.
Having met Massimo Martinelli, his Barolo makes perfect sense: it encompasses the twinkle in his eye and his profound musings on life, his abstract artwork and joyous laughter. Notes of laurel, licorice and dried rose petals greet your nose, while dehydrated mushrooms, iron, a touch of red fruit, and firm tannins fill your palate. Like a true work of art, it is meant to be contemplated and savored slowly. With seven years of aging under its cork, Il Barolo Letterario is drinking well now, but could easily be kept in the cellar for years.
The Wine Merchant: Prima Vini | Walnut Creek, California
John Rittmaster, co-owner of Prima Ristorante and Director of Wine at Prima Vini, has been traveling to Piemonte for over 30 years, and is even a Cavaliere di Tartufo e Vini d’Alba ( Knight of the Truffle and Wines of Alba); Many winemakers consider him a friend, if not family at this point. While the wines of Piemonte are certainly a forte of Prima Vini, by no means do they stop there. Other regions of Italy, France, and California are all well represented; I discovered Prima by attending a wine-paired dinner showcasing wines from the Rhone…then I visited their wine shop next door and discovered one of the best selections of Italian wine I’ve seen outside of Italy! I was smitten. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed many a wine dinner at Prima—often with the winemaker themselves—and spent my last birthday at their annual Champagne extravaganza (first weekend of December FYI) and have even organized a couple of wine tours for them. John and his staff are incredibly knowledgeable and they have the post-nominal titles to prove it. They’re also down-to-earth, nice people. Whether you are Bay Area-based or not, I recommend signing up for John’s weekly newsletter and be the first to know when they get in a special shipment of wine (like Massimo’s Nebbiolo and Barolo), which you can order on their online shop.